Argus, a Highly Reusable SSTO Rocket-Based Combined Cycle Launch Vehicle with Maglifter Launch Assist
Olds, John R.
Bellini, Peter X.
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This paper summarized the results of a conceptual design study that was performed in support of NASA's recent Highly Reusable Space Transportation study. The Argus concept uses a Maglifter magnetic-levitation sled launch assist system to accelerate it to a takeoff ground speed of 800 fps on its way to delivering a payload of 20,000 lb. to low earth orbit. Main propulsion is provided by two supercharged ejector rocket engines. The vehicle is autonomous and is fully reusable. A conceptual design exercise determined the vehicle gross weight to be approximately 597,250 lb. and the dry weight to be 75,500 lb. Aggressive weight and operations cost assumptions were used throughout the design process consistent with a second-generation reusable system that might be deployed in 10 - 15 years. Drawings, geometry, and weights of the concept are included. Preliminary development, production, and operations costs along with a business scenario assuming a price-elastic payload market are also included. A fleet of three Argus launch vehicles flying a total of 149 flights per year is shown to have a financial internal rate of return of 28%. At $169/lb., the recurring cost of Argus is shown to meet the study goal of $100/lb. - $200/lb., but optimum market price results in only a factor of two to five reduction compared to today's launch systems.